10 things about Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow

beyond_the_black_rainbow

  1. Beyond the Black Rainbow is Panos Cosmatos’ first and only film.
  2. The film is about a girl named Elena trapped in Arboria, some sort of new age hospital. The events take place in 1983, though there is a flashback to 1966. The founder of the hospital is dying. A younger doctor, Barry Nyle, seems to have taken over operations. How characters are related to one another is ambiguous.
  3. The cinematography is incredibly stylized. Imagine David Lynch directing Logan’s Run after he just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. All images are unstable, blending into each other and shifting colour. The only thing that remains fixed is the doctor/patient hierarchy. It is still possible to be trapped in a world where everything is fluid.
  4. I could probably read this film as a surreal depiction of how, in America, the culture of the 60s influenced the culture of the 80s; how the optimism of the hippies created the basis of the amoral corporate culture of the 80s. The founder of the hospital, Dr. Arboria, was once “enlightened” by drugs; now he is a dying addict still holding onto his original dream.
  5. The film flaunts the similarities between prison, hospital and suburbia. It’s not the totalitarian tyrant that keeps one from escaping, but rather the beauty and spectacle of the images. The hospital is a magical wonderland of strange creatures and supersaturated colours. Outside, life is banal.
  6. In fact, it may be the tyrant, Barry, that compels Elena to escape the hospital.
  7. The ending is either hopeful or cynical depending on how one answers this question: to escape imprisonment, is it sufficient to escape the tyrant or must you also escape the spectacle?
  8. The movie invokes and plays with the natural/artificial distinction. While, in the hospital, the natural world is idolized (“arbor” is the Latin word for “tree”), the only presence of “nature” is through representations. All characters, at one point, watch a screen.
  9. There are certain long takes in the film that are set up beautifully with pulsing, hypnotic electronic music in the background. The camera will slowly track backwards, like a shot out of a Kubric movie. Then the film will abruptly cut to a new scene. The effect is jarring, but also made me aware of how much the long take had hypnotized me.
  10. The song Anonymous by SSQ plays during the end credits. The lyrics to the song summarize the movie well.
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